2019 All-State Students

OCC’s 2019 USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York State Academic Team members are (left to right) Katelyn Doner, Kate Hanson and Marigone Istogu.

Graduates of Cicero-North Syracuse and Central Square High Schools along with a native of Kosovo have been chosen to represent Onondaga Community College on the 2019 USA Today Phi Theta Kappa All-New York State Academic Team. All three students are members of OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. They were selected for their academic excellence and community service. The students will be honored during a ceremony in Albany April 24. The students are:


Katelyn Doner

  • High School: Cicero-North Syracuse, class of 2016
  • Major: Electronic Media Communications
  • Katelyn is a member and officer in honor society Phi Theta Kappa.



Kate Hanson

  • High School: Central Square, class of 2016
  • Major: Mathematics & Science with a concentration in Biology
  • Kate is a member of honor society Phi Theta Kappa. an Honors Student Ambassador, a Biology notetaker for students who utilize OCC’s Office of Accessibility Resources and the recipient of a national Coca-Cola scholarship.



Marigone Istogu

  • Native of Kosovo
  • Major: Electrical Technology
  • Marigone is a member and officer in honor society Phi Theta Kappa who interned at National Grid last summer where she focused on Substation Engineering and Design.


All three students plan to transfer to four-year institutions and earn higher degrees. They are highlighted in this month’s edition of our podcast, “Higher Ed News You Can Use from Onondaga Community College.” You can listen to the podcast here.

National Scholarship Winner

Electrical Technology major Marigone Istogu is a 2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar winner.

Marigone Istogu has been named a 2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar winner and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Coca-Cola’s scholarship program helps Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. PTK is the international honor society for community colleges. Coca-Cola scholars are selected based on scholastic achievement, community service and leadership potential. More than 1,200 students applied for the award. Istogu was one of 207 winners selected. “I am absolutely honored to be awarded this scholarship. It really showed me that hard work will pay off in the long run and to always stay focused,” she said.

Three years ago Istogu came to the United States from her home country of Kosovo. She started taking classes at OCC in 2017 and today is an Electrical Technology major, owner of a perfect 4.0 grade point average and president of the college’s PTK chapter. She spent this summer working as an intern at National Grid with a focus on Substation Engineering and Design. Istogu’s career goal is to become an engineer. She will earn her degree in May 2019 and plans to transfer to Syracuse University.

Congratulations Marigone Istogu, winner of the 2018 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship!

Delivering Help To Those In Need

Nursing students and faculty members outside the hotel where they stayed in Guatemala.

Students enrolled in OCC’s Nursing program spent the holiday season giving to others. They traveled to Guatemala where they participated in service-learning over the semester break. “It was quite the adventure,” said Nursing major Troy Adams. “We were shocked by the poverty there but the people were so kind and appreciative.”

Students built six stoves for families.

Adam and nine classmates brought everything from valuable medical supplies, to everyday items like toothbrushes, band-aids and clothes, along with a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Once they landed in Guatemala the first few days were spent building wood burning stoves in homes. Stoves there are used for cooking and are burning all day long. The existing stoves were deteriorating and didn’t vent to the outside, leaving walls covered in dangerous creosote and families with significant health problems.

Students built new stoves in six homes, then left them to cure while they presented local citizens with health clinics and information sessions. “In rural Guatemala there isn’t a lot of access,” said student Sarah Kimmelman. “There aren’t a lot of supplies and there’s not a lot of funding.”

Students hosted free clinics where they checked things like blood pressure and blood glucose levels. They taught residents how to make shampoo and a substance similar to Vick’s Vapo Rub. Students worked with children and focused on teeth brushing, hand washing, burn prevention and general hygiene.

Students offered residents a free health clinic.

The service-learning trip was an eye-opening experience for students. “Those people literally didn’t have a floor under their feet and they were so happy to see us and so appreciative,” said student Theresa Ott. “You really learn how to not take for granted things we have because people who have so much less are so much more content in life.”

The students efforts were noticed in Washington, D.C. They were awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award at the “Silver Level.” This is the premier volunteer awards program, encouraging citizens to live a life of service through presidential gratitude and national recognition.

The trip was made possible in large part thanks to the support of National Grid, M&T Bank and the entire campus community.

Supporting Summer Learning

Support from National Grid provided students the opportunity to learn and grow during OCC’s Summer STEM Camp.

National Grid’s generosity played a critical role in ensuring students of all ages engaged in valuable learning experiences over the summer. The energy supplier’s charitable contribution of $20,000 paid dividends across campus.

College-aged students who are National Science Foundation scholars had the opportunity to take classes at no cost. Carolyn Keller (West Genesee HS, 2015) is a Mechanical Technology major. She took a Business class and a Statistics class during the summer. “I’m so appreciative that National Grid paid for my classes. It took such a weight off me. It’s nice to know National Grid supports you and wants you to succeed.”

OCC students (left to right) Oksana Drulyk, Trevor Averill and Carolyn Keller.

Trevor Averill (Tully HS, 2016), an Engineering Science major, chose to retake a Calculus class during the summer and improved his grade. “When I took Calculus during the school year I had way too much going on. Taking it during the summer allowed me to focus on it more. It really helped not having to worry about how I was going to pay for the class.”

Oksana Drulyk (Liverpool HS, 2016) enjoyed a similar experience. The Mathematics & Science major retook Calculus and performed much better the second time around. “I think it was a really good thing National Grid did supporting us. It made a big difference in my life not having to pay for this class.”

National Grid’s support also benefitted members of Girls Inc. and other students who attended OCC’s annual STEM Camp. Participants had the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning in a classroom setting, building robots and working on other STEM-related projects. Students also visited Central New York employers offering vibrant careers in STEM-related fields.

Marwa AlQuarishi

Marwa AlQuarishi, a May 2017 OCC alumna, helped supervise STEM Camp students and guide them through STEM-related projects. She received a stipend from National Grid for her services and enjoyed the experience. “When I was their age I’m sure I didn’t know as much as they do now. It’s fascinating to see what they do and how they do it.” AlQuarishi is now a student at Crouse Hospital’s School of Nursing.

“National Grid is proud to support Onondaga Community College and the STEM programs and scholarships offered to high school and college students to experience how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play a huge role in business every day,” said Melanie Littlejohn, vice president of National Grid in New York. “Today’s students are the future leaders of Central New York, the same individuals who will one day engineer and design the systems that will continue to help improve our lives in the years and decades ahead. The STEM curriculum at OCC provides a great resource for students to learn from one another and to help spark an interest in STEM careers.”


STEM Camp student Katherine Evans watches her robot begin its journey through the obstacle course.
STEM Camp student Katherine Evans’ robot begin its journey through the obstacle course as classmates look on.

It’s the final day of STEM Camp in OCC’s Mulroy Hall and you can cut the tension with a knife. There’s a high-level competition in progress between female participants and the ultimate prize is on the line. Students have spent the week building robots in preparation for this day. They’ve programmed their robots to navigate through an obstacle course. Each time a student sends her robot into the obstacle course and doesn’t make it she hears words of encouragement and advice from instructor Scott Stagnitta. “That was good! Program the turn so it’s ten degrees more and it will work next time,” Stagnitta says. The student listens and returns to her desk to reprogram her robot. This is serious business. At the finish line rests a large pile of candy which will go to whomever can get her robot there first!

Fun coupled with learning have become annual summer traditions at OCC’s STEM Camp. It’s held the last week of July for boys and girls entering grades nine through 12 who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields. Students spend half of each day in class learning about modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming while participating in team building experiences. During the other half of the day they take field trips to businesses and explore their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses include Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging, Time Warner Cable News and Welch Allyn.

STEM Camp is divided by gender and finding enough girls to fill the class at times can be challenging. That’s where Girls Inc at the YWCA comes in. The organization reaches out to the community and finds girls interested in careers in science. “We go to local schools and talk about the program,” said Flavia Rey de Castro, Youth Development Director with the YWCA. “We require girls to write an essay about why they would be interested in attending the program. Along with the essay they have to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor.” At the end of the process Girls Inc at the YWCA selects five girls to attend STEM Camp. Camp tuition is paid for through a grant from National Grid.

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Craelle Hinds is one of the students who attended thanks to Girls Inc at the YWCA and National Grid. She’ll be a freshman at West Genesee High School in the fall. “I want to be a cosmetologist and I’m very interested in learning how hair products are made. Seeing how things were put together at places like National Grid and Schneider Packaging was very interesting. I’m very grateful to Girls Inc. for helping me come to STEM Camp.”

The 2016 STEM Camp was a hit with other attendees too:

  • “This week reinforced my interest in science and showed me the career side of it. I learned what I would be doing and how I would be interacting once I completed college and was in a career. I liked seeing the manufacturing side of operations at Welch Allyn. It was interesting to see the production and creation of products.” – Liam Hawes, 9th grader at Marcellus High School
  • “I was planning on becoming either a computer programmer or an engineer. Now I’m leaning more toward becoming a mechanical engineer. All of the companies we visited use mechanical engineering. I know there are good careers there.” – Justin Kehoe, 9th grader at Cicero-North Syracuse High School
  • “I really like tech and came here and found out how much fun it was to put things together. That got me interested in mechanical engineering. Then I learned about biomedical engineering and it seemed like an interesting career for me. I really liked Welch Allyn because of the biomedical engineering connection. I also enjoyed National Grid because of the hands-on experience. We got to use tools and look at how they actually operate in the field.” –Katherine Evans, 9th grader at Westhill High School

OCC’s STEM Camp would not be possible without the generous support of National Grid. The electricity and natural gas utility contributed $10,000 to the program. National Grid also donated $5,000 to the College’s summer STEM Scholars program which helps college-aged students stay on track with their degree requirements.

You can learn more about STEM Camp by contacting the College’s Office of Lifelong Learning at (315) 498-6000 or lifelong@sunyocc.edu.

Thank You National Grid!

Shania Matthews is taking summer classes at OCC thanks to National Grid's generous support.
Shania Matthews is taking summer classes at OCC thanks to National Grid’s generous support.

National Grid’s commitment to education is making a significant impact at Onondaga Community College. The electricity and natural gas utility is contributing $15,000 to support summer learning in STEM-related fields. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

National Grid’s support is assisting both college and high school-aged students on the OCC campus. Eight OCC students enrolled in the STEM Scholars program are taking summer classes part-time thanks to $5,000 from National Grid. The funding covers nearly 60% of tuition and fees, making it possible for these students to stay on track with their degree requirements. Scholarship recipients say this wouldn’t be possible without National Grid’s support.

“Your generous assistance allows me to take the class “Nuclear Operation Fundamentals” at Nine Mile Point this summer, opening a career path to become a licensed nuclear operator. Without this class I would not have had that opportunity. Thank you!”   -Ashley Haskins, Nuclear Technology and Electrical Engineering Technology dual major, Sandy Creek High School Class of 2008

“I am so grateful to receive assistance with my summer courses. It has lifted a heavy burden off my shoulders!”   -Haley Hurst, Mathematics & Science major, Port Byron High School Class of 2015

“I’m very grateful for the financial assistance. Getting my classes paid for without going into debt is extremely helpful. It allows me to focus on school and not have to worry about getting a job to pay for my classes. Thank you for all of your help!”   -Shania Matthews, Mathematics & Science major, Homeschooled

“The financial assistance I’ve received here has been tremendous and has provided relief from the pressure to work full-time to pay for school.”   –Tori Field, Mathematics & Science major, Skaneateles High School Class of 2014

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“The support was so important because if I would have paid out of pocket for summer classes I wouldn’t have been able to afford books in the fall. I really appreciate it.”   -Natalia Montilla, Engineering Science major, Nottingham High School Class of 2015

“The financial support was amazing to receive. It helped me be able to focus on my education instead of having to hold a job during school or worrying about how I would pay for school. I couldn’t be more grateful to have received this scholarship.”   -Cassidy Ratray, Mathematics & Science major, Mynderse Academy (Seneca Falls) Class of 2015

“I always thought college would be a problem financially. Scholarships have helped pay for school and cut back on the number of hours I work.”   -Jerry Tingley, Computer Studies major, East Syracuse Minoa High School Class of 2015

“The financial assistance I’ve received is one of the big reasons I chose OCC. The fact someone is generous enough to sponsor students like myself in STEM-related fields really motivates me to do well in my classes.”   -Sydney McCombie, Environmental Technology major, Mexico High School Class of 2015

“It is so rewarding to see the impact National Grid’s support is having upon our students. These summer scholarships offer a tremendous benefit to our students who have a strong desire to succeed but limited resources,” said Lisa Moore, Vice President for Development and Executive Director of the OCC Foundation.

“The summer support that our STEM Scholars program receives from the OCC Foundation and from generous donors is immense.  I cannot thank National Grid enough for their generous donation.  The students are so appreciative for the opportunity to continue progress towards completion of their degrees in the summer without the worry of needing to work to pay the summer tuition,” said Associate Professor of Biology Maryann Page who oversees the College’s STEM Scholars program.

OCC’s highly successful STEM Scholars program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Acceptance into the program is both merit-based and need-based. Selected STEM scholars receive scholarships up to $5,000 per semester, and are also supported by peer mentors, faculty mentors, and are encouraged to engage in internship opportunities that will prepare them for their transfer and career choices. To be eligible students must take a minimum of 12 credit hours, a burden too heavy for most during summer months. National Grid’s support covers students’ part-time coursework during the summer.

National Grid’s generosity is also helping high school-aged students this summer. The utility has donated $10,000 which is being used to fund STEM camp during the last week of July on the OCC campus.

Interested in making a difference in the life of a student? Contact the OCC Foundation at (315) 498-6060 or occfoundation@sunyocc.edu.

Champions of Opportunity

OCC's 2016 YWCA Champion of Opportunity Award recipients are (left to right) Paul Aviles, Denise Reid-Strachan, Dr. Glenda Gross, Pete Patnode and Jamie Sindell.
OCC’s 2016 YWCA Champion of Opportunity Award recipients are (left to right) Paul Aviles, Denise Reid-Strachan, Dr. Glenda Gross, Pete Patnode and Jamie Sindell.

Five Onondaga Community College employees received the “2016 YWCA Champion of Opportunity Award.” They were honored April 21 at a luncheon held at SKY Armory in downtown Syracuse. OCC’s honorees were:

  • Paul Aviles, English Professor and Tutor
  • Dr. Glenda Gross, Sociology Professor
  • Pete Patnode, Criminal Justice Professor
  • Jamie Sindell, English Professor and Chairperson of English/Reading/Communication
  • Denise Reid-Strachan, Financial Aid Administrator

The awards are bestowed upon individuals who embody and defend the values of justice, peace, dignity and equality, are actively leading or participating in programs that embrace and promote equity, equality, diversity and inclusion, conduct work that supports opportunities for women’s growth and leadership and/or works or advocates for the creation of opportunities for professionals of color, within Central New York.

The luncheon was emceed by OCC Professional Communication Professor Mark Muhammad. The keynote speaker was Melanie Littlejohn. Ms. Littlejohn is Regional Executive Director for National Grid and a member of OCC’s Board of Trustees.

Summer Learning at STEM Camp

High school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields attended Onondaga Community College’s STEM Camp during the last week of July. Students spent half of each day in class developing a knowledge base of modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming, while adding to team building experiences. During the other half of the day students took field trips to businesses and explored their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses included Byrne Dairy, Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging Equipment and Time Warner Cable News.

Jordan Dudden speaks with STEM Campers about her business, JoJo Rings.
Jordan Dudden speaks with STEM Campers about her business, JoJo Rings.

Students also visited SALT Makerspace (pictured above) located inside the Delavan Center at the corner of West Fayette and Wyoming Streets in Syracuse. “SALT” stands for Syracuse Arts Learning and Technology. The facility provides access to equipment for metalworking, woodworking and 3-D design and modeling. The space is available for local inventors and artists to use.

JoJo Rings uses SALT Makerspace's facilities to turn old keys into rings.
JoJo Rings uses SALT Makerspace’s facilities to turn old keys into rings.

STEM campers toured the facility and saw the 3-D printer and other high-tech devices in action. Students also met an entrepreneur who uses SALT Makerspace regularly in conjunction with her business. Jordan Dudden owns a startup called JoJo Rings. She creates fashionable pieces of jewelry by turning keys into rings. Dudden, who is a graduate of Skaneateles High School and Syracuse University, comes to SALT Makerspace to heat the keys so they can be bent without breaking, sized, cleaned and buffed. JoJo Rings are available in stores in more than 40 states and on the internet. She has sold more than 3,000 rings. Each month she partners with a nonprofit organization, sharing a portion of the proceeds with the charity.

STEM Camp’s primary sponsor is Time Warner Cable (TWC) as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, a philanthropic initiative to address America’s declining proficiency in STEM-related fields. Using its media and employee assets, TWC creates awareness of the issue and inspires students to develop the STEM skills they need to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.

The Learning Center

The Learning Center has work spaces for groups of all sizes.
The Learning Center has work spaces for groups of all sizes.

The most popular freshman on campus isn’t a star athlete or someone with movie star good looks. It’s the Learning Center, the new home for OCC’s tutoring services. The Learning Center is located in the Gordon Student Center next to the cafeteria. It’s filled with spaces for students and tutors to work either one-on-one or in groups. “We’ve been thrilled with the response and the number of students who keep coming back,” said Kathleen D’Aprix, Assistant Vice President of Academic Support Services who is in charge of the Learning Center.

RESIZED Learning Center signThe main entrance to the two-level facility grabs your attention. On one wall of the lobby is a Learning Center sign which changes colors. On the opposite wall is a huge photo of Albert Einstein with the saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The Learning Center employs more than 120 tutors and that number constantly changes. “We’re always adding tutors as we learn there are more and more courses students need help in,” said Ted Mathews, Coordinator of Course Specific Tutors. The tutors come from all walks of life: there are current OCC students, alumni, students and professors from nearby colleges, retired professors, retired public school teachers and people working in various industries. “We have a National Grid employee who works during the day and tutors at night in Electrical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Technology. He has the practical experience and can say to students ‘this is the why you need to know this,’” said D’Aprix.

Student-tutor Corrine LaFrance (left) tutors Nick Simmons (right) in calculus.
Student-tutor Corrine LaFrance (left) helps Nick Simmons (right) with calculus.

The Learning Center isn’t just for students who need help. Sophomore Mathematics and Science major Nick Simmons (Skaneateles High School) comes to the Learning Center every day despite the fact he’s a member of OCC’s student honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. “It’s always quiet here. I enjoy the atmosphere. If it turns out I do need help with something I can find someone who can answer questions for me. I feel like my grades wouldn’t be as high as they are without the Learning Center.”

On this day Simmons needs help in calculus and he finds Corrine LaFrance (Skaneateles High School), an OCC sophomore majoring in Business Administration.  She works at the Learning Center four hours a week and enjoys every minute of it. “I love tutoring in math. I’m very good at it and I enjoy helping others,” said LaFrance.

Ted Mathews and Kathleen D'Aprix oversee Learning Center operations.
Ted Mathews and Kathleen D’Aprix oversee Learning Center operations.

Learning Center administrators are working to add workshops to their list of student offerings for the spring 2015 semester. “We’re learning a student may be assigned a project which requires a PowerPoint presentation but doesn’t know how to create one, so we are designing a PowerPoint workshop,” said D’Aprix. Workshops will also be added to help students learn how to use Microsoft Word and thumb drives.

The Learning Center is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Summer Scholarship Support

Summer scholarship recipients include (left to right): Deynaba Farah, Ashley Claris, Tam Nguyen, Raul Ceballos and Ghan Timsina.  Claris received the Learn As You Grow Summer Scholarship, the others received the National Grid Summer Incentive Scholarship.
Summer scholarship recipients include (left to right): Deynaba Farah, Ashley Claris, Tam Nguyen, Raul Ceballos and Ghan Timsina. Claris received the Learn As You Grow Summer Scholarship, the others received the National Grid Summer Incentive Scholarship.

The OCC Foundation is proud to announce that a record 30 scholarships were awarded to students enrolled in classes this past summer. With limited financial aid available during the summer session, the need for summer funding is an important one. To support this important initiative, National Grid provided  OCC with generous funding and Kevin & Kathleen LaGrow, owners and operators of Learn As You Grow Child Care Centers, established a new summer scholarship endowment. Kathleen LaGrow is a 1979 graduate of OCC. These generous contributions have made an immediate impact on our students, and we cannot thank National Grid and the LaGrow’s enough for their incredible, ongoing support. Our students are equally grateful:

“I am very thankful to National Grid for providing my summer scholarship. With your support I was able to take summer classes and plan to graduate in 2015.”-Ngun Lian, National Grid Summer Scholarship recipient

“The National Grid summer scholarship has lightened my financial burden. I hope to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me. Thank you!”-Tam Nguyen, National Grid Summer Scholarship recipient

“I want to thank you for the scholarship you provided me for my summer classes. Without it, I would not have had enough funds to attend. As an immigrant student who is still learning the language, I am working hard to overcome these challenges and secure my future. Once again thank you for your help!”-Ghan Timsina, Learn as You Grow Summer Scholarship recipient

“I am grateful for everyone involved with the OCC Foundation and the Learn as You Grow scholarship. The funding has enabled me to take time off from work this summer to focus on school and other resume- building activities. It has taken a large amount of stress out of my life!”-Kiirsten Amisano, Learn as You Grow Summer Scholarship recipient

If you would like to help ensure summer scholarships are available for future students, please visit here or contact the OCC Foundation at (315) 498-6060.